Tuesday, September 16, 2008

It could get worse

My conversation with Amy from last week: she's describing my mother's patterns -- she has this fear of being taken advantage of, a paranoia -- status is incredibly important to her, she loses her genuine empathic feeling and she has an inability to follow through on things. One thing that worked for Amy was to say: two weeks ago you said this. And my mother would say: really?

If this isn't making sense, maybe it's because I'm relying on my notes from last week. Amy said that when my mother and father saw her for couples therapy, my mother was always upset, fragile and shaking because of me -- Amy says: she would tear and cry in every session. Amy is encouraging me to share my vulnerability with my mother, but I've already shared it -- I've tried absolutely every tactic, and it gets me nowhere. Actually I feel like I'm totally empathic and present and speaking to her calmly and she never responds in a consistent way, I mean in a consistent way other than to let me down over and over, to try to exert power over me and it's ironic, because what she wants is for me to be closer to her, that's why she's unwilling to create this account. But the result is the exact opposite -- I keep thinking why do I talk to her at all? I mean, if she was looking for an example, she could look to my father, who always controlled everyone in the family with money and I cut off all contact with him -- that's where it got him. And even with sex work, which I know she doesn't want me to be doing, which she used to get obsessed about like it was this horrible thing that was ruining my life and I was going to die and that obsession was just so that she didn't have to deal with the abuse. It was only about her. And whenever I talk to her and I think oh, it's not going to happen -- she's never going to create this account. That's when I think about sex work, I start planning it out again. Because at least it's something I can rely on.

I say one thing that might be helpful is if you could talk to my mother, and tell her your thoughts about our conversation, I mean I've told her all of these things, over and over, but I'm like an alien to her, I mean she sees me as her son, and she respects my intellect, but everything about my life is like a different world. And you are similar to her in a lot of ways. Amy interrupts: I'm not similar, I am your mother. Which sounds strange when I repeat it, but in the conversation it's kind of funny and supportive. I say right -- you're the same profession; you both live in the suburbs of the same city, or have until recently; you're the same class, about the same age. And I know she respects you.

Amy says I've definitely thought about it, but my fear is that it could get worse. She could feel taken advantage of, paranoid, and things could get harder between you and then I wouldn't be doing you a service -- my goal is for her to feel less paranoid about you and more compassionate and supportive.

At first I'm thinking how could it get worse, but then I realize Amy’s right, my mother would want to get information about me but she wouldn't want to listen. I appreciate this clarity, but it doesn't exactly make me more hopeful.

4 comments:

ohthehorrror said...

Sweetest Mattilda,

Your post shows that your mother is incapable of behaving in a rational manner because of her deep-seated narcissism (which I realize that you already know).

I think that the following comments about your mother are quite telling.

"Amy is encouraging me to share my vulnerability with my mother, but I've already shared it -- I've tried absolutely every tactic, and it gets me nowhere. Actually I feel like I'm totally empathic and present and speaking to her calmly and she never responds in a consistent way, I mean in a consistent way other than to let me down over and over, to try to exert power over me and it's ironic, because what she wants is for me to be closer to her, that's why she's unwilling to create this account."

And then there is Amy's comment:
"She could feel taken advantage of, paranoid, and things could get harder between you and then I wouldn't be doing you a service -- my goal is for her to feel less paranoid about you and more compassionate and supportive."

ANd your other comment: "At first I'm thinking how could it get worse, but then I realize Amy’s right, my mother would want to get information about me but she wouldn't want to listen. I appreciate this clarity, but it doesn't exactly make me more hopeful."

One of the cliches I've heard from my cadre of shrinks is that it is insanity is defined as doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.

I know you desperately want to be vulnerable with your mother, but like Derek, she doesn't seem interested in getting to know YOU. When one is dealing with a narcissist whose only comfort is in the fact that she has control over you via money, then is it reasonable to suspect that she will suddenly develop rationality, empathy and concern for you if your simply plead with her to understand?

It goes back to vulnerability. If you make yourself vulnerable to someone who is either a) constitutionally incapable of empathy for the violence in which she is complicit that has harmed you on so many levels, is it reasonable to suspect that she will suddenly have a change of heart and decide to set up that account for you (which is the least she could do)?

Her unwillingness to provide the account for you is a blatant example of her narcissism, and she is clearly danging the possibility of creating the account in order to modify your behavior to conform with her wishes and desires which include that you deny the truth of her complicity in your father's abuse, thereby absolving her of her responsibility for the abuse.

What I am about to suggest may be anathema to you, but perhaps it could help you secure that account. Your family owes that to you, and it's not like your request is unreasonable.

Assuming your mother has something resembling a conscience, she cannot allow herself to see her own culpability in perpetuating your father's abuse. Furthermore, she seems to have created her own reality that absolves her from the guilt of knowing that her silence and failure to protect you means that she is equally culpable for the sexual abuse played by your father.

I know you want to be vulnerable and express the truth of your reality, but your are dealing with a person who is threatened by that vulnerability and whose support is conditional on your acceding to her demands. It sounds like she will never budge unless you give up sex work, which is of course ridiculous.

I know you want truth, and as someone who survived a family that repeatedly tried to kill me, I have a visceral understanding of the overwhelming desire you have for them to accept and affirm your truth. From what you have written, though, it sounds like that may never happen.

Fact: you deserve this account. Although the emotional needs and the desire for a recognition of truth are understandably a primary concern for you, the sad fact is that you are not dealing with people who aren't interested in understanding and loving you unconditionally.

I know this may sound cynical, but the following tactics have worked for me in the past. Once I recognize that I am dealing with family member who are incapable of recognizing and repenting for their culpability in perpetuating the abuse and torture they have inflicted upon me, I put up boundaries to protect myself. Since they will never change no matter how vulnerable I am with them, I am forced to regress into survival mode. I tell them what they want to hear in order to get my needs met. After all, they are clearly never going to accept me and my reality, so being vulnerable to them merely sets myself up for the inevitable disappointment.

Mattilda, you deserve to have this account. It is the least your family can do for you. If they are placing conditions that you must meet before they will set up the account, then perhaps it is time to make them think that you are meeting those conditions. Yes, doing so will make you feel deceitful, but considering the fact that you were repeatedly raped by your father while your mother inflicts the violence upon you of perpetuating your father's abuse via denial, blaming the victim, and retraumatizing you by abdicating her role as mother and continuing to control you by money, maybe you should re-evaluate your decision to be open with her.

Since abusive families perpetuate their violence by the lies they tell themselves and others (including you), and since your mother shows no sign of a conscience or empathy, maybe it is time to protect yourself and to do whatever possible to get that account set up.

In my family, I survived by pretending to go along with the family lies and telling them what they wanted to here. Sure, it sucked to do that, but I realized that I was dealing people who were so narcissistic and controlling that being vulnerable and open was not an option. So I placed my anger and my desire for understanding and vulnerability in abeyance, and I pretending to give them what they wanted in order to get what I needed.

Of course, it sucked to do that. But when one is dealing with sociopaths who are incapable of unconditionally relinquishing their power, sometime it helps to give them the illusion that you have "seen the light" and are changing your oh-so-evil ways so that they will finally, at long last, provide you with what you need.

Yeah, I know. This approach requires lying and prevents you from getting the understanding and validation you deserve. Perhaps it feels disingenuous, and it is.

However, it also gives you power because it places you back in control. If you can temporary tolerate saying, "Golly, you are right, I shouldn't be involved in sex work," or "You are right mom, I need to [insert absurd motherly advice here]," then maybe her irrational defenses will start to crumble and she will feel more in control, which may make her feel more comfortable in creating the account.

I know this sounds manipulative, but given how your childhood was shattered by a sociopathic father who raped you and a mother who lacked the integrity to protect her child (and who still seems to place the blame on you), perhaps it is time to relinquish once and for all the notion that your mother is interested in anything but wielding power over you. Once the account is created, you can stop eating the shit sandwich and receive what is rightfully yours. Then you can go back to sex work.

From what you've written, it sounds like your mother is never going to budge. It also sounds like she is incapable of empathy and that her primary interest is in power over you rather than exhibiting the type of love that a mother should gladly give her son.

Given this reality, I do not think it is cynical to temporarily play her game in order to get what is rightfully yours. Sure, you will not get the vulnerability and affirmation you crave from usng this tactic, but are you getting it now?

Give her what she wants. Show her the facade she wants to see no matter how painful it is to do so. After all, you were raped by your father and your have been betrayed by your mother's complicity in the abuse over and over again. These sociopaths are not interested in being vulnerable and supportive, so why feel guilty about doing whatever it takes to get them to create an account to meet your basic needs, which is the absolute LEAST they could do.

Is this strategy, I know it will be hard for you to give up the desperate hope that they will eventually come around. Sadly, it seems that this will never happen. All of your vulnerability has been viewed by them as evidence that there is "something wrong with you" If you can stomach it, tell them what they want to hear so that you can finally have the resources to take care of your health problem.

They have played you for far too long. Maybe you can do the same to them.

Then, once the account is in place, you can continue to be yourself, and you will finally be free of their financial manipulation.

Unless, of course, you think that you can eventually for them to see you and understand your truth.

When my father physically tortured me and psychologically played with my mind, I quickly learned how to give him what he wanted in order to get what I needed: security and freedom from abuse and torture. Given the unparalleled violence to which I was subjected, I do not view my manner of coping as cowardice. Instead, my actions resulted from the primal need for survival. Outwardly I pretended to be open and vulnerable, but inwardly I seethed. Fortunately, this strategy worked: I survived.

Being vulnerable with your Mommy Dearest is, I am sure, quite painful. Especially when you are labeled crazy and defective. But if you can tolerate pretending to give her what she wants, you will ultimately be the winner because it will help convince her to give you the account, which is the least she can do.

Your mother is incapable of loving you unconditionally, and it sounds like the money is her way of trying to silence you and remake you into her image. Let her think she is doing just that, even though it is obviously not true. After all, why should you feel guilty for doing this when she treats you like a disobedient dog.

Walls can prevent connection, but they can also protect you. Erect a wall between you and mommy dearest that only you can see. Let her think that everything is hunky-dory, and maybe her inaccurate perception of your submission to her authority will increase the likelihood that she will finally create that account.

I know that this tactic is cynical, but from what you've said your mother is unlikely to change. Instead of making yourself even more vulnerable to your abuser in the hope that she will see the light, maybe consider the possibility that you have the power to use her pathology to get what you DESERVE.

LOVE, HUGS, POSITIVE ENERGY to you.

mattilda bernstein sycamore said...

Ohthehorror, thanks for all of this analysis!

Just to clarify, with my mother I am not trying to be vulnerable -- it's more that I'm trying to be present in my emotions, and that I feel empathy for her, even though I don't necessarily want to. That was the contradiction with Amy, who wanted me to feel more empathy but actually empathy in this case gets me nothing -- certainly you're right about that.

As for your strategy, in this case it's not quite the right one. I'm actually not doing sex work, and haven't been for a few years, and my mother knows that. She actually isn't looking for me to conform to any particular standards necessarily. She's actually given up on that agenda, since it's never worked in the past and she would not believe it for even a moment...

I don't necessarily have hopes that she will ever acknowledge the abuse -- her own sexual and emotional abuse, or my father's, so don't worry I'm not holding onto that -- although of course I still want it to happen...

Okay -- I may not be so clear because I have to run out to get some more before 4:45 -- oh no! But you're right -- I do deserve the account, it's the least my mother could do and it wouldn't change your life in any way at all -- that's for sure. Thanks for the engagement and support!

Love --
mattilda

keidy said...

Status is really important to your mother. She wanted you to go to the right high school, the right college, date the right girl etc. Why doesn't your mother feel that it is in poor taste for her to have millions of dollars while you may have to return to sex work to pay the bills? After all what would the neighbors think if they knew your mother was such a bitch.

mattilda bernstein sycamore said...

Keidy, you are so so right -- it's so ridiculous and contradictory, what on earth?

Love --
mattilda